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Phila. firefighters protest budget cuts

Inquirer staff writer Brittany Talarico reports:

Up to 1,000 firefighters, local union activists and concerned citizens will march to Philadelphia City Hall this morning to protest proposed service cuts to the fire department.

The march will begin at 11 a.m. at the Philadelphia Fire Fighters' Union Hall (IAFF Local 22) at 415 N. 5th Street.

"We have firefighters coming as far away as Fairfax County Virginia to join us in our protest," said David Kearney, recording secretary for the Philadelphia Fire Department.

The firemen will be protesting Mayor Nutter's plan to cut about 10 percent of the public fire protection without an independent scientific impact study, Kearney said. The cuts are scheduled to take effect on January 5, 2009, the start of the deadliest fire season in the city, he said.

January marks a spike in fires because people use alternate means of heating devices in their homes such as kerosene heaters, electric space heaters or even their stoves to cut cost, he said.

"The cuts are going to make it even worse this year because of the bad economy people aren't doing as well and you are going to see more people trying to get by as best they can use things like these kerosene heaters to heat their homes," Kearney said.

He said the cuts include the closing of five fire companies, five engines and two ladders.

"Those units will cease to exist," Kearney said.

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